After-School Babysitter: Your 101 Guide

The start of a new school year gives you a chance to get off on the right foot with a new after-school babysitter or refresh the relationship you have with existing sitters. Seize the opportunity to evaluate your after-school childcare expectations and have a candid discussion with your sitter to let her know what’s important to your family and how to best support you in caring for your child. Open and honest communication is the key to both of you getting what you want out of the partnership.

Here are five back-to-school tips to help you maximize your relationship with your after-school babysitter. These messages will go a long way toward ensuring the best possible care for your kids while you are away and will help you avoid misunderstandings or disappointments that can arise when you are not upfront with your child’s childcare provider.

1. Clearly define the hours
“After-school” care may translate differently to you and your sitter. Let the sitter know the hours you will need assistance, including whether they are in charge of dinner and bedtime. Also discuss availability and willingness to stay late in the event that you’re stuck at work, need to run a few errands or hoping to squeeze in a date night. If your return time consistently varies, you won’t be happy with a sitter who isn’t able to stay late.

2. Discuss driving expectations and rules
If your sitter is charged with dropping off or picking up your kids from school, lessons, activities or play dates you should have a frank conversation regarding your expectations for driving – including no talking on a cell phone or texting while driving. Also make sure your sitter understands the importance of your children riding in car seats and that they know how to properly install them. Do your homework before hiring a sitter to drive your kids by checking to see that the child care provider has a valid driver’s license and a safe driving history.

3. Provide snack and meal guidelines
Make your sitter your wingman in your fight to keep your family’s nutrition and health on track. Rather than hoping for the best while the kids are in the caretakers hands, let your sitter know what you’d like your child to eat while you’re away. You want the sitter to spend time playing with your kids, rather than spending time in the kitchen, so don’t require the sitter to prepare time-consuming meals and snacks.

Instead, make it a practice to keep nutritional snacks in the house. Choose snacks that your children are accustomed to eating so there is no battle of the wills. Also, make sure your sitter understands that meal prep is part of the responsibilities (if you require her to prepare your child’s dinner) and let the sitter know if you prefer that your child wait to eat with you when you return.

4. Ask the sitter to supervise homework
It’s fantastic when your after-school babysitter goes the extra mile by taking the time to help cover activities you’d be doing if you were home and will otherwise have to handle when you return. Most sitters are more than willing to lend a hand, but may not realize where their help is useful. Let your sitter know if you want them to help your child knock out their homework, log daily reading time or if your preschooler could benefit from some one-on-one practice tracing the ABCs, learning to write their name or mastering colors and numbers.

5. Set the after-school babysitter up for success
You can help your sitter do their best by providing all they need to succeed. That means making sure there are clear instructions, schedules and directions to wherever the kids will need to go. Be sure your kids’ activity bags are packed or provide details on where to find everything your child needs for lessons or practice so the sitter isn’t scrambling to find soccer cleats or stressing over what your child is supposed to bring to dance class. In addition, be sure the sitter has the food she needs for snacks or to make dinner, and that there’s a clearly marked homework spot with everything your kids need to do their work. Your sitter is there to take over while you’re away, but the sitter can do a much better job caring for your kids with a little help from you.

Your sitter will appreciate your candid discussion and be better prepared to provide your child with the best possible after-school care. You’ll both be happy you had this important conversation, and will be off on the right foot for the new school year.

Need help finding an after-school babysitter? Check out our 7 tips for hiring the best after school nanny or sitter. Here are also some ideas for some fun after-school activities.

Looking for a babysitter or nanny? Join UrbanSitter to browse profiles, sort by pay rate, and book jobs online.

Don’t Stress The Homework: We Bust 3 Myths to Show You How

Girl doing homework

By Barbara Dianis

Homework is an integral part of the journey to be educated for students everywhere. But it can cause tremendous arguments when three misunderstandings and misconceptions are prevalent between parents and their children. To clear them up, here are suggestions for making homework more productive and peaceful in your home!

Myth #1: I can’t make my child focus on homework time without making it an endless endeavor.

Truth: The ability of parents to keep kids focused during homework time starts with creating a daily schedule. Look over homework assignments together and decide how long each assignment should take to complete. Write this lightly in pencil at the top of the assignment. You can then determine appropriate breaks—which help improve focus—after one-half of each assignment is completed at an average or above-average level. Each small break can be given in 2-5-minute segments until the homework is completed.

Myth #2: Homework is totally my child’s responsibility and I shouldn’t intervene.

Truth: Generally, the purpose of homework is to help kids master skills on their own at each grade level. In order for it to be effective, though, it needs to be done correctly so learning gaps don’t result. If it isn’t, you may need to give assistance, going over lessons with your kid to make sure he understands what he’s meant to actually learn.

Myth #3: My son’s teacher says he is not consistently turning in his homework, but there’s no way for me to constructively help him to do this.

Truth: Turning in homework is an organizational and executive management skill with which numerous students struggle each year. One easy remedy is to have your kid file all of his completed homework in an accordion-style file folder that has marked spaces for each class. Back this up by placing a sticky note on his agenda book with a reminder to turn in his homework for each class. At the end of each school day, check to see if the homework folder has been emptied.

Barbara Dianis, MA ED, is the author of Grade Transformer for the Modern Student.

Photo via

10 Ways to Tackle Reading Homework

Most school-aged children are required to read as part of their daily homework. It’s typically not much, 15-40 minutes of reading, but busy families with limited after-school time can have a tough time squeezing it in. It’s difficult to find time in their busy schedules and convince tired kids, especially early readers, to hit the books each night.

Rather than fighting with your little one to get the work done, why not help by making reading a family affair? After all, there’s no disputing how important it is for new readers to get consistent reading practice. Here’s how to help your child clock the time by doing it together as a family and by expanding his reading materials beyond the books he brings home from class. You’ll be surprised at how much your child enjoys the time and how quickly the reading minutes add up.

image via mytudut at compfight


Tips for Logging Reading Time:

  • Read a recipe and cook something together. Check out the UrbanSitter Cooking with Kids Pinterest board for delicious recipes that are just right for cooking with kids.
  • Make sure the books you have at home are the appropriate reading level. Experts suggest using the five-finger rule. Open a book to a random page and ask your child to read it to you. Put one finger up every time your child does not know a word on the page. If you have to put up more than five fingers before turning the page, the book is too hard for your child.
  • Play a board game together. Start by having your child read the instructions aloud. Fun, educational options include Scramble Junior and Boggle Junior, but any board game with cards to read will work.
  • Take a family trip to the library and have your child choose books that appeal to his or her interests. A reluctant reader may change her tune when she dives into a story she can relate to or that piques her interest.
  • Create a comfortable spot in your home for lounging and reading, and hang out there together as a family. No electronics allowed.
  • Have your child help you make the grocery list and read it aloud to you if you are shopping together.
  • Task your child with reading the menu at a restaurant.
  • Keep plenty of reading materials in your home, including books, magazines, newspapers and comic books. Make it a habit of having your child grab something to read while in the car or while waiting at an appointment or at his sibling’s soccer practice.
  • Commit to making bedtime stories a regular part of your nightly bedtime routine. Even older grade schoolers enjoy being read to and appreciate hearing a story they may not be able to tackle on their own. You might take turns reading, switching every page or every chapter.
  • Try interactive literacy websites, such as Starfall, Speakaboos and Spelling City for fun games that promote literacy.

The next time you have a sitter, be sure to share your reading tips and requirements and encourage her to read with your children and to supervise independent reading time. How do you encourage your kids to read each and every day? We’d love to hear your tips!

Tips for a Stress-Free Homework Routine

Many parents dread their kids’ school homework as much, if not more than their kids do. It’s not easy to squeeze homework into schedules packed tight with after-school activities, family and work responsibilities, dinner and still get the kids to bed on time. Plus, it’s never easy to convince tired, hungry kids to tackle homework after a day at school. Here are effective tips for kicking off the school year with a stress-free and productive homework routine.

photo via Woodley Wonderworks, flickr
via Woodley Wonderworks, flickr

Make it top priority.
Make it a routine to tackle homework before the afternoon slips into late evening and leaves you with tired, cranky kids. For most families, it works best to do homework after school, once kids have had a snack and a few minutes of chill time. If you wait to do it later, it’s easy for it to get lost in the shuffle of after-school activities, outside play and friend time then ends up interfering with bedtime. Having it done and out of the way frees up the evening for family time, avoids meltdowns, and helps keep everyone on schedule.

Provide a healthy snack or meal.
Kids can’t do their best when they are hungry or filled with sugary, processed snacks. Make sure your child has a satisfying, healthy afternoon snack before digging into homework. Some parents even swear by feeding their kids dinner when they get home from school, and a lighter snack later in the evening. Seems unorthodox to eat dinner at 3 pm, but it makes a lot of sense! Check out our Cures for the Snack Attack Pinterest Board for healthy snack ideas and Easy, Kid-Friendly Dinners for Busy Parents to rev up your dinner repertoire.

Create an appealing homework space.
Designate a comfortable space for your child to do his homework each and every day. Rather than doing homework on the couch while watching TV or in the back seat on the way home from soccer practice, get in the habit of doing it an environment that is conducive to doing good work. Whether it’s the kitchen table or your child’s own desk, make sure it’s a spot that’s free of interruptions or temptations, and is well lit. Have tools and materials handy, such as sharpened pencils, markers, and a dictionary.

Schedule ample time for homework.
Young children may only need a few minutes to copy spelling words or trace letters, but if possible, turn off the rush. It helps to give older kids time to work through tougher homework without the added stress of squeezing it into the schedule.

Keep homework anxiety under control.
Kids have less anxiety when they know what to expect and when to expect it. You can reduce any anxiety they may have about homework by sticking with your routine, making sure your child understands your expectations and reminding him that mistakes are a part of learning.

Stay connected with teachers.
Open communication with your child’s teacher is important. Let her know if your child has anxiety about the homework, or if you feel there is too many assignments for a young child. Also ask her for suggestions on how to help your child understand and complete assignments, and for feedback on your child’s performance.

Recruit your sitter to help with homework.
If you depend on a sitter for after-school care, ask her to spearhead homework and be available for assistance. Helping a child with homework means clarifying directions, providing additional explanation, and reviewing the finished product.

Consider hiring a tutor.
If your child continually struggles with the work, consider hiring a tutor. It might be the solution that takes the stress off both of you, and allows you to spend more enjoyable time together.

With a little practice and consistency, these strategies should help you tee up a successful, stress-free routine to start the year off right.